“Britain is back” was the welcome remark made by James David Bevan, British High Commissioner to India, on his visit to Ahmedabad on Thursday ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit that begins Friday.
Laying the ground for Britain’s re-engagement with Gujarat on business and other likely strategic partnerships, Bevan, who will meet Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, also laid emphasis on justice being delivered to the victims of the 2002 riots.
“No, we have not forgotten 2002, where there were deaths of hundreds of people, including three British nationals. We hope that justice is done to the families of all the victims. That is one of the reasons we have decided to re-engage with the state because we are more likely to secure justice for the British nationals who died. We are following closely the case that has been going on and I did discuss the death of three British nationals in detail with the Gujarat CM in October among other things. We hope the legal process is taken forward and justice is done,” said Bevan at a press meet.
“From 2002, for 10 years we have had no contact with the chief minister of Gujarat, but that has changed in the last year and we would like to begin building a new partnership and relaunch our engagement. After the events of 2002, many western governments ceased contact with the state and Britain was one of them. We took a look and concluded that Gujarat has grown important since 2002. It was the right thing to do. If you want to engage with India then you cannot ignore Gujarat. So we decided to re-engage with the Government of Gujarat rather than be in isolation of it,” added Bevan.
In a bid to establish his Gujarat connect, Bevan said, “Having grown up in Leicester in Britain, which has one of the highest number of Gujaratis residing there, I am almost a son of Gujarat.”
A 70-member UK delegation of 50 companies and trade bodies will be attending the three-day Vibrant Gujarat summit.
Rob Lynes, director of the British Council in India, spoke about the memorandum of understanding that Britain has signed with the Gujarat government to support and strengthen higher education links between the two.
Pointing out that overseas trade office in Gujarat had never closed down in the past 10 years in Gujarat, Patricia Hewitt, chairperson of the UK India Business Council, said, “We are looking at B to G and G to B, which is to Britain to Gujarat and vice-versa. Ahmedabad has transformed in a big way and is growing at a faster rate than China. Some of the major sectors that we are looking at engaging with are infrastructure, education, energy, financial and legal services, healthcare, aerospace, I-T & software and arts.”